S1:E1 | The Purposeful Planning Revolution

Host: John A. Warnick, Esq., Founder, Purposeful Planning Institute

The inaugural episode of the Purposeful Planning Podcast.  In this episode, John A. Warnick, Founder of the Purposeful Planning Institute, shares the secrets of Purposeful Trusts & Legacies, an exciting and revolutionary concept which is transforming the way we work with clients.

Purposeful Planning integrates best practices from legacy, relational, and philanthropic domains into design, drafting, and implementation to provide tax-efficient, asset protective, and legally effective plans that promote healthy, flourishing families.

Learn how Purposeful Planning can provide you with a pathway to discovering how to help your clients create more meaningful and sustainable legacies.


About Our Speaker

Until 2009 John A. Warnick was a partner in the Denver office of a large regional law firm where he chaired that firm’s Private Client Services Group. In early 2010 he launched the Purposeful Planning Institute, a community of almost 500 estate planning attorneys, financial planners, CPAs, trustees, wealth psychologists, and family business consultants who want to ensure that the impact of their technical planning will be a positive force in the lives of each generation of their client families. John A. is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, serves on NAEPCs Multidisciplinary Teaming and Professional Collaboration Committee, and speaks frequently to Estate Planning Councils, bar associations, financial planning audiences and family business centers.


JOHN A: Welcome to the Purposeful Planning Podcast. Where do we go from here? I’m really so excited. This is the first of a series of Purposeful Planning Podcasts. I think they are going to be full of aha moments for you. Today, I want to share my professional journey, where it’s taken me. And it really started with the Miranda story.

So I was in my office, it was the Tuesday after a four-day weekend, a federal holiday on Monday, and my secretary buzzed me and said, “Miranda’s on the phone. She’s just absolutely out of control, swearing irrational, I think I should tell her to chill.” And I said, “Barbara, just put her through to me.” So, I began the conversation with Miranda. “Miranda, good morning, how are you?” And before I could finish that, she said, “I want you to fire that flippity flip, trustee!”  And in the understatement of the century, I said, “Miranda, I can tell something terribly wrong has happened with your trust. What is it?” And so that basically led to a conversation that probably lasted all of five minutes in which by the time we were through, I discovered that she had gone gambling that weekend, and had written checks which were going to bounce if she didn’t get her trust distribution check. So I asked her, “When do you normally get this check?” And she says, “It always comes on the second or the third.” And I said, “Well, that means that the bank puts it in the mail on the first. The first was Saturday. So today, Tuesday, they’re putting that check in the mail. You’ll have it no later than Thursday.” And she says, “That’s not my flippity flip problem; that’s their problem.” And I just could not comprehend how this young woman who was the beneficiary, not of a huge trust, but of a trust that was giving her enough income on a monthly basis that she had chosen, much to the dismay of her family to drop out of college and just live from trust distribution check and trust distribution check. And I began to ask myself, “What have we done? We’ve created a monster here.”

I would later come to call Miranda — the Mirandas of the world — trust narcissists. But as I thought about that, the question formed in my mind. Is there a better way? And I don’t have time to share the full story. But if you’d like to hear the amazing story of what unfolded as that question began to really dominate me, and I carried it with me, it was constantly in front of me. And it led ultimately in a very, very miraculous way to my connecting with Jay Hughes, and then a five-year journey, where Jay served a family that I was also serving. It was in that five-year period that Jay would say “When you’re going to be in a major metropolitan area, tell me a few months in advance, and I will introduce you to the people that have influenced me.” So in that five year span, maybe six years, I actually was introduced to about 25 or 30 of individuals who had influenced Jay Hughes in a major way. And I was immensely grateful for that. And when I left the large law firm — sadly, because I was unable to do what Jay predicted I would not do — Jay said, “You’re going to leave the large firm and do what I do.” And I said, “Jay, I’m going to do what you do, but I’m going to do it inside the large law firm.” He said, “My friend, you’re sadly mistaken.” And he was right, unfortunately. But in the long run, it proved to be a very providential outcome because it led to my leaving the firm, to starting the Purposeful Planning Institute. And so my purposeful journey begins with this question: Is there a better way? And I think that that question has just fueled me ever since and I hope that that question resonates with each of you as well.

So I’m going to speak today of two great titans of the Purposeful Planning community. Jim Grubman, PPI fellow, the owner of Family Wealth Consulting and our PPI laureate, James Hughes, Jr., who many of us affectionately call Jay Hughes.

So Jim Grubman, about a year ago, with the help of Dennis Jaffe and Kristin Keffeler, published an article in Trusts & Estates magazine around Wealth 3.0. This concept that began in a conversation I had with Jim in early 2018 culminated in his keynote address at PPI Rendezvous, where he kind of shared the emergence of this concept of Wealth 3.0 with us. And he continues to build on it. And I believe it’s incredibly valuable and sets the stage for where this community is headed in the next decade. So this is the quote from Jim that really resonated with me. “As advisors to families of wealth, we must be mindful of what we tell our clients. The narrative we reinforce about wealth is often negative. We fed the wolf of fear in clients.” This negativity is what Jim really objects to that permeates and what he calls Wealth 2.0. The reasons for this are rooted in the past 40 years development of family wealth advising, when a powerful yet flawed approach to goal. Fortunately, the field appears to be on the cusp of its next great transformation. It has the opportunity to retain the beneficial elements of what we’ve learned. So we’re not shocking, setting aside, denigrating Wealth 2.0. It was a necessary stage, and we want to build on that foundation.” I hope that’s clear to everyone, and that you don’t look at Wealth 2.0 as a negative. If it’s not for Wealth 2.0 emerging some 40 years ago, we’d still be stuck in the world of Wealth 1.0. And now we’re on the cusp of moving into Wealth 3.0. We have the opportunity to retain the beneficial elements of what we’ve learned, shedding any underlying pessimism and refocusing on a more positive, purposeful and professional orientation.

So, Jim started the Trusts & Estates article with a story that I’ve heard and it’s a powerful one. It’s the story that I call ‘The Two Wolves’, an old Cherokee grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It’s a terrible fight. And it is between two wolves. One is evil. He has anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.” Grandfather continued, “The other is good. He has joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” That same fight is going on inside you and every other person, too. The grandson thought about it for a minute, and then he asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” To which the grandfather said, “The wolf you feed.” And Jim Grubman points out that Wealth 2.0 is basically feeding these fears and is projecting a belief system that a majority of wealthy families that they’re going to suffer failures. So the wealth management practitioners in Jim’s mind have been feeding the wolf that lives on anxiety, suspicion, mistrust and control. What started as a call to action has often been used to frighten families into creating restrictive and fear-based plans across generations. We tell them, “If you don’t keep control, your family is going to lose your wealth.” And really, the truth of the matter is that’s just not…we can get into an argument or debate around what the probabilities are of that happening, but to say that it’s absolute and to stress the pessimism and the negativity that there’s no hope. Eventually, these forces are going to overwhelm your family, destroy the wealth, destroy the family. That’s just, it’s a fear based plan. It’s a call to action, Jim says, “That has often been used to frighten family leaders into creating restrictive, fear-based plans across generations. If you don’t keep control, your family is going to lose its wealth. Many advisors use shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves to ring fence, the money and trust or philanthropy, so future generations can’t get at it, or be ruined by it.”

I think one of the greatest tools that has been widely popular in Wealth 2.0 is the failure rates that go back to the John Ward research into the Williams and Pressor research, Courtney Pullen. I heard Courtney speak some 10 or 12 years ago, and he asked the question, “What causes wealth and family enterprises to fail?” And he basically pointed to the Williams and Pressor research, pointing out that in their research, they found that 60% of the failures were due to a breakdown of communication and trust within the family, 25% were due to successors and heirs being inadequately prepared. And that left a 15%, which was a potpourri of different things. There’s nothing wrong with understanding the importance that the Williams and Pressors research places on preparing rising generation family members and on creating positive family culture, communication, processes and you know, just strengthening the relational fabric of the family through authenticity, transparency. Those are all great things that we need to see more of. But to use William and Pressors research as if it were a whip, and we’re flailing at our clients and whipping them into a frenzy fear around the failure and it’s going to happen, that is what we want to avoid in Wealth 3.0.

So the other titan that I am thinking of this morning I want to express immense gratitude to is none other than James Hughes, Jr., who we affectionately call Jay Hughes. One of the things that Jay teaches in family wealth in which I’ve heard him express on more than one occasion is what I call ‘the Professional Road to Canterbury’. This kind of trek or pilgrimage, pilgrims going together to Canterbury. Jay uses that story. That metaphor brings it into the professional world. Here’s a quote that I took from a 2014 interview that he did with Kim Schneider Malek, and this was published in the FFI practitioner. “I can observe that wisdom keepers, down through the ages, have thought that a fulfilled professional life lies in the qualitative work of relief of another suffering in the enhancement of his or her journey of happiness. In our specific field to the awakening of every rising generation member, and to assist in him or her in the manifestation of his or her own dream and of his or her individuation. This is a life of service, what I’ve called in my writings, the life of a personne de confiance.It is the path of the master.” And it’s this inspiration that I feel every time I listen to Jay or read that quote and reflect on the path, the journey to mastery, what it takes, what it means to be a personne de confiance.

I believe that this journey to mastery is how we break out of the world of Wealth 2.0.  And if we think about where this journey begins, it has to begin with the professional humility that we can adopt when we follow the wisdom of Shunryu Suzuki who taught, “In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities. In the experts’ mind, there are few.” I think that moving away from the captivity, that professional expertise, kind of shackles us with opening ourselves up to all of these myriad possibilities, and beginning to realize that there’s lots of other fields, lots of other domains of knowledge and wisdom that would benefit what I do in my service to my individual and family clients and to the family enterprises I serve. This is tremendously valuable. And so I think we really need to change our mindsets from a mindset that totally focuses on expertise to a mindset that is focused on how do I become a master and ask the questions, “Is there a better way, a better process, a better practice?” Purposeful Planning, I submit, is the way. And one of the key concepts within Purposeful Planning is this concept of fusion. This is a term that I initiated with Tim Belber’s help. It is the possibility that emerges when we integrate into technical planning best practices from the relational, behavioral, legacy and philanthropic domains. In essence, fusion represents the best of technical excellence and the best practices that have been discovered and proven over time from these other domains: the relational behavioral legacy in philanthropy.

Fusion ties in to something that Jim Grubman, Dennis Jaffe and Kristin Keffeler touched on in their February 2022 Trusts & Estates article quoting, “The small but growing area of holistic, purposeful estate planning and trust design.” I believe that’s the first time someone, other than myself has interest in estate, used this descriptor of ‘purposeful’ to describe what’s possible in the estate planning, trust design, trust administration, trust settlement world. “The small but growing area of holistic, purposeful planning and trust design should continue its advocacy of healthy processes supporting all members of what’s been called the trust gate.” And within the world of PPI, we have focused on and initiated a formula that I call the ‘PPG formula’. It stands for Purpose, Positivity and Gratitude. I believe this formula is the key to creating meaningful and sustainable gifts, legacies and transition. So, purpose is absolutely imperative. We need greater clarity and depth of probing to find what our client’s purposes are. We need to encourage a gratitude practice. And then absolutely, absolutely important that we think about how we can elevate the positivity and the positive emotional energy that is being generated in the planning process. I’m fond of saying that what the world needs more of is purpose repurposed. And the failure to clearly state a trust creator’s intent makes it likely that courts will be called upon to define what that purpose was. But when we express, capture, clearly convey purpose, it changes everything about the trust. It helps inform the design, the draft, and everything in the process.

Our clients absolutely need our help in understanding the myriad ways behind the trust, where the plan that they’re hoping to create. Our clients don’t know what they don’t know, as a personne de confiance, we recognize that there are myriad possibilities. Our job isn’t to prescribe, absolutely not. And yet, that’s where I started, but I understand today, how wrong I was to constantly prescribe, “This is what you need to do.” And instead, our job is to assist our clients by taking off they’re planning blinders. These are the blinders that don’t allow them to see the myriad possibilities, which stand in the way of their discovering what matters most to them. I would argue, and I feel very strongly that the 20 or so Purposeful Visioning Exercises we created are the best and the easiest way to help clients tap into their most heartfelt and positive feelings and dreams. I believe these exercises assist us in capturing, with precision, our clients why’s, that should be the underlying foundation for the trust, the gift, the overall legacy plan, the impact that they want to have.

I’m going to close this podcast by focusing on our Mastery program. Mastery, basically goes through eight keys of purposeful planning, purposeful trust, purposeful legacies. And the first key that we cover in the legacy program is the key of unleashing and capturing positive emotional energy. This task is, to me, proven time and time again to be the most valuable work that I help my clients with. Through it, they express love and positivity, their belief in the goodness and the growth potential of their family members. And it also helps us to embed what I call ‘seeds of gratitude’. I referred to Miranda as a trust narcissist. This quote, I remember associating with that, from Brene Brown, “What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” So the more we can do to cultivate not only an attitude of gratitude, but gratitude practices, the more positivity we’re going to see in the plans, the documents, the structures that are erected, around the plans that we want to help clients create and reinforce. So, the keys of purposeful planning, the eight keys that I spoke of include, not only the key of unleashing and capturing positive emotions, the key of capturing our client’s voice and vision, the key of purposeful names, the key of purpose and intent clauses, the key of meaning, the key of guidance, the key of guidelines, and finally, the key of values and virtues. All of these keys are immensely valuable. All of them are accompanied with exercises. And the Mastery program is the way for you to discover how to use these keys to open new doors in the planning process that will be immensely valuable and appreciated by your clients.

I want to close with looking at one of the exercises, one of my favorites. It’s called the Bridge Builders Roadmap. In this purposeful visioning exercise, basically, it inspired me to write this written or recorded reflections of our life, wisdom and experiences encrusted with the beauty of our expressions of love, appreciation, and faith in the goodness and potential of our children are the only riches our posterity can match upon. So, the bridge builder poem is by Will Allen Dromgoole, and the poem goes like this:

An old man, going a lone highway,

Came, at the evening, cold and gray,

To a chasm, vast, and deep, and wide,

Through which was flowing a sullen tide.

The old man crossed in the twilight dim;

The sullen stream had no fears for him;

But he turned, when safe on the other side,

And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim, near,

“You are wasting strength with building here;

Your journey will end with the ending day;

You never again must pass this way;

You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide-

Why build you the bridge at the eventide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head:

“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,

“There followeth after me today

A youth, whose feet must pass this way.

This chasm, that has been naught to me,

To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.

He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;

Good friend, I am building the bridge for him.”

That describes this generativity that is sparked by within parents and grandparents, who can capture that immense value of life wisdom that has come to them for their journey. I’d like to ask you to just reflect, what would it be like, what would it be worth to you if you had a reflection from your parents, or the VIPs (very influential persons) in your life that captured the best of their life wisdom? And how valuable can that be to our loved ones and to the loved ones of our clients? So this exercise really focuses on three things: 1) recommended points of interests: things that I did, habits I formed, traditions I honored or created, which I would recommend; 2) and then hazards and detours: the mistakes I’ve made, the situations I would have avoided at all costs, if I could have a mulligan, and live life over and take what I’ve learned, and live over my life; 3) and then the final emphasis is on the Northstar Guidance System: glimpses into how I’ve kept myself moving forward on the road of life, and what might prove to be valuable guidance for those I love.

I strongly encourage each of you. This is available on the PPI website. I’d encourage you to pull it down, and in the next few days, find reflective time. All you’ll need will be a half hour, you’ll probably get so energized around it, you’ll spend 45 minutes, maybe an hour. But what will come from this will be immensely valuable. You’ll feel great satisfaction, and it will be a priceless treasure that you can pass on to your loved ones. And it will also be an example that you can share, if you feel so inclined with clients to inspire them. We have created this incredible e-learning Mastery program. And in this coming year, very early in the coming year, we’re going to be initiating a Mastery program group to get into Mastery. It’ll be carried out over a six month period. Mastery is available, you can do it on your own. When you see the invitations to join the  Mastery Group Coaching, that will be an opportunity to not only learn, but in a group coaching setting, we’ll spend twice a month an hour applying what you’ve learned into real life and helping everyone in this small, powerfully affirming group benefit from each other’s experiences and questions.

So, I’ll close the podcast with that. And I hope that you have enjoyed this and that you’ll get great satisfaction for all the upcoming Purposeful Planning Podcasts. They are going to be fantastic.

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